If you have access to the Internet, go to an online search engine and enter the words “custom drums.” To say that competition is currently heavy among drum makers is an understatement. Due to the easy availability of inexpensive ready-made maple shells and generic hardware, it seems that anybody with a fat checkbook and a little moxie can start their own drum company these days.
But starting a drum company and running a successful drum company are two very different things. Even the big, established drum makers fight tooth and nail for a piece of the coveted pie. Any business has to turn a profit, and in an industry so crowded with very similar products aimed at a reasonably limited market, it’s not surprising that many of these small companies go belly up at such an alarming rate. I started noticing this phenomenon in the mid ’90s, when I compared NAMM show directories from three consecutive years and saw that well over half of the small, upstart drum makers who exhibited the first year were gone two years later. With music superstores buying instruments at such low prices and all the intense rivalry in the drum business nowadays, you would have to be either crazy or convinced that you have built a better mousetrap to get into the business of making drums.
The folks at the Spaun Drum Company are probably a little of both. The things that set their drums apart from much of the crowd is that they are well conceived, well made, and deliver much of what they promise. There is nothing extraordinarily fancy about Spaun Drums, but there is an elegance to their simplicity that is somewhat charming.
Owners Brian Spaun and David Pimentel have made some informed choices concerning the construction of their drums. The stylish and functional lugs consist of a small round piece of solid machined brass with a threaded brass insert that receives the tension rod. While conventional cast lugs hold their inserts in place via a piece of plastic or a spring, the Spaun lug uses a small set screw, not unlike the old Leedy “diamond” lug. This allows the insert to move within the body of the lug while still retaining solidity. It’s a good alternative to most machined metal lugs, in which the threads are tapped directly into the lug itself, and therefore have less play when it comes time to align the counterhoops with the lugs. I’ve always had a fondness for brass lugs because they have a musical character and dense mass to them that is absent in cast lugs. Spaun also claims that because the lugs are made from solid stock, there are no air pockets that would deaden the resonance of the shell. Moreover, the lugs are mounted to the 8-ply maple shells with one screw, thereby decreasing shell contact and maximizing sustain.
Well-designed lugs are just one part of the bigger picture. Spaun has also created a double 45° bearing edge, which the company says helps to align the drumhead so that it floats more freely and therefore resonates better. After working with the drums for more than a month, I would have to agree that the double cut bearing edge is a great idea, especially for toms. When I put new heads on the toms, they slipped right on and tuned up in a jiffy. They were also easy to tune to an actual note. Not only did they hold their pitch, they projected wonderfully as well.